Much of the talk heading into the 2022 World Cup centred around who would be taking in their last dance at FIFA’s ultimate party. There were plenty of leading lights reportedly ready to be extinguished.
Cristiano Ronaldo cannot go on forever, as superhuman as he may appear, while the weight of expectation lumped onto Neymar’s shoulders by Brazil is beginning to weigh a little heavy.
Then, there was Lionel Messi. With no World Cup medal among his remarkable collection, the expectation was that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner would bid farewell to an international stage were an elusive title to slip through his grasp once more.
Lionel Messi isn’t letting go of the World Cup pic.twitter.com/VScjx0N11a
— GOAL (@goal) December 21, 2022
He won any GOAT debate by inspiring Argentina to glory in Qatar. With a famous trophy hoisted aloft, the obvious question once the ticker tape had been swept up was: Will Messi grace another World Cup?
We may still be a little over three years away from the next global gathering, but when betting on sportsbook markets you can find Argentina priced at 9/1 to successfully defend their crown when heading north from South America to the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Messi’s presence could see that price shorten quickly, but no definitive decision has been made on his involvement as yet. Plenty are hinting at the most mercurial of No.10s extending his career far enough to take into another major tournament. Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni has said of that lively discussion: “Will he continue in the national team? We have the door open for him and if we see no, we’ll look for an alternative. I hope he makes it to the next World Cup, I can see him there.”
The man himself is playing cards close to his chest, with Messi offering the kind of open-ended response that you would expect from a man that – despite the many talents lodged up his sleeve – is still unable to predict the future. He has said: “I love playing football and while I feel like I’m in good shape and enjoying this, I’m going to keep at it. It seems like a long time until the next World Cup, but it depends on how my career is going.”
Leo Messi wins his individual award pic.twitter.com/7R27gtWuov
— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 27, 2023
Messi has scooped the FIFA Best men’s player of the year award in 2023, while an eighth Golden Ball is expected to follow, so his career appears to be plateauing just fine. In fairness, he could probably turn up at the 2026 World Cup in flip flops, with a cocktail in hand, and still be allowed to form part of Argentina’s squad.
He has earned the right to pretty much do as he pleases, with there nothing left for him to achieve at the very highest level. It is, however, unrelenting ambition that allows such heights to be scaled and you get the sense that Messi will not want to abdicate his World Cup throne without putting up some kind of fight to the many pretenders that have collective sights locked on it.